Ethics and Blogging: Attribution Where Due
I think there are a lot of misconceptions in the blogging community about attribution, linking out to your source of information. Some of it has to do with myths about “draining your link juice” and some of it’s based on greed, but a lot of bloggers don’t use attribution because they just don’t realize what it is, when they should use it, or why. So let’s answer all these questions.
What is attribution?
Attribution means giving credit to the person who created the content you’re using. It may be textual content, it may be a quote, it may be a picture, an image, a video and it may just be an idea or concept. Whatever it is, if it’s not something you created, then it was created by someone else. If you feel it’s of value to your readers and you use it on your own blog, then you need to give credit where credit’s due.
Why is attribution important?
Attribution is important for three reasons:
- Someone else created that content and they deserve the credit. If someone used content you’d created, you’d want credit, too.
- Using someone else’s content without their permission is plagiarism. It’s illegal and your site may be severely penalized.
- Citing the original source of information increases your credibility. Your readers know you’re not just making stuff up.
How do you provide attribution?
First, make sure you’re allowed to use the content. Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s up for grabs. Then, use a text link to link back to the original creator, using his name and website where available.
What about citing information resources?
If you’re using a direct quote from another blog or website, you should always use anchor text to cite the source. But here’s where many bloggers get it wrong and this is one reason they don’t like to provide attribution. They’ll use something like this…
According to Stephane, one of the 10 principles of successful business blogging is ‘use a professional voice.’ To find out more visit Dukeo.com.
The reason many bloggers don’t use attribution is because they don’t want their readers leaving their blogs to follow those attribution links. But, in the example above the reader has to because he doesn’t really learn anything. He knows there are 10 principles, but he’s only seeing one, and that one principle isn’t even being explained. Of course he’s going to click that link and leave your blog. He’s forced to if he wants to find out what you’re talking about.
Here’s a better way to handle it…
According to Stephane of Dukeo.com, one of the 10 principles of successful business blogging is ‘use a professional voice’ because you’re trying to impress potential clients, people who will feel comfortable paying for your services, not people who want to talk about their cute cats and babies.
The second example provides value for your reader because it explains the principle, and since it’s right there on your blog, the reader only has to click the link if he wants to check out the other nine principles. But since you’ve already explained the one that’s relevant to your conversation, he really has no need to follow that link.
So what’s the point, then? Why bother with a link at all? Even if you weren’t supplying a direct quote, even if you were only summarizes a paragraph, your reader always has the option of questioning your validity. You’ve done it yourself. How many times have you read another blog and said, “Pffft! What does this guy really know, anyway? He’s just making this up.”
But don’t all those outbound links drain your page rank?
Not at all. In fact, there’s some evidence to suggest they actually help improve your page rank because your blog becomes a hub of information. But outbound links don’t actually carry your page rank away. They simply show the search engines that you recommend that other content and as a result the search engines reward that other site with more authority.
Bottom line, when you cite the source of your information you add credibility to your content, and you can never have too much credibility which is why I believe you can never cite too many sources.